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Aidan Baker, "Liminoid/Lifeforms"

cover imageUnlike previous solo efforts, here Baker is flanked by a concentrated orchestra, propelling his demur drones into consonant and complete compositions. The result is an album of staggering growth as Baker explores the elegant side of drone and the filth of classical percussion and strings that not only established Baker as an innovator but as a inventive curator of drone and its many variants.

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Aidan Baker - Liminoid / Lifeforms

Above all else, Liminoid/Lifeforms is a definitive statement. Baker clearly states his objective with the first few notes of “Liminoid Part I,” never wavering from his desire to capture the elements of classical and romantic composition with modern techniques. The result is an album that is warm; thick with texture and sonic craftsmanship. Albums with this much attention to detail often crumble under the weight of expectation but Baker has nothing to atone for once the final note of “Lifeforms” fades into the abyss.

The greatest accomplishment of Baker’s foray into the classical is in its simplicity. Much like the great masters of composition, Baker is never afraid to do too much by doing too little. Each of the four parts that comprise “Liminoid” joins seamlessly. Not until the soaring vocals of “Liminoid (Part IV)” can we begin to notice how Baker has carefully flirted with the grandiose by indulging it so completely. The subtle hints of cello and violin coupled with the restrained guitars and percussion are slow to reveal themselves as something more than Baker’s usual fare. “Liminoid (Part IV)” becomes the unveiling of Baker’s masterpiece; when the quiet decoration that has been painstakingly built for 22-minutes engulfs the classical philosophy in a fiery pillar of modern ingenuity. In spite of its ambitious nature, the whole of “Liminoid” does not falter for even a single note. This is proof that experimental music can be manipulated using the principles of Romanticism without compromising the chaos theory and fringe accessibility that has found deep roots in various genres.

After the breathtaking beauty of “Liminoid,” Baker risks toppling his opus with the sedentary drone of “Lifeforms.” Yet the risk is well worth it, providing the perfect counterpoint to elegance of “Liminoid” while also proving to be its mirror—albeit of the warped, funhouse variety. Where “Liminoid” was poised and polite, “Lifeforms” is a test of patience and will. It maintains the grace of its segmented lead-in but the restraint of “Liminoid” is replaced with rambunctiousness. “Lifeforms” isn’t abrasive but a piece built on dissonance and misplacement. Its parts, unlike “Liminoid,” are those of worn jigsaw puzzles; connections don’t fit as they should, the tabs are frayed beyond recognition, and there are holes from missing pieces. In this there is a majesty that admirers of “The Ugly Duckling” (and its ilk) will appreciate. “Lifeforms,” when held against “Liminoid,” will seem the tremorring visage; but as a mirror and a companion, it divulges the secrets of success found within “Liminoid,” while annihilating the measuring stick of beauty used for far too long.

The labeling of Liminoid/Lifeforms as a high form of art may be a bit of hyperbole but within Aidan Baker’s classical excursion, there are far too many gems of old and new to call it anything else. Over the course of one hour, Baker builds a sturdy bridge over a crevice that once relied on the likes of John Cage and Terry Riley as its architects. Old world beauty and futuristic tones can work as one, creating music that is as challenging as it is universal.

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Review of the Day

Metalux, "Waiting for Armadillo"
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M.V. Carbon and J. Gräf make noise that is slow, consumptive, and jello-thick and their method of ear-shattering is unique enough to make them stand out among a sea of amateur feedback wankers. Keyboards stretch and rattle like whale blubber waving in the wind and sonic whines break the sound barrier in an attempt to reach light and break it, too, but through all the chaos and unchecked sludge is that hint of intention and arrangement that helps everything make sense. Metalux might have one foot in the out-of-control world of schizophrenic sound construction, but the other is firmly planted in the calm and cool realm of careful preparation. After turning up their aggression they consider the variety they've presented, look it over like some hellish Frankenstein made from the bones of destroyed drum kits and nuclear guitars, and they craft it into rolling lines of synthetic bubbles and purring sex kittens. Carbon and Gräf open up noise and reveal under it the comedy of failing sounds; there are bloody llamas and pliant animals to be found on this record. There's always a strange kind of beauty here that reminds me of why noise can be so great. Take the overdriven guitar of "Splinter and Shimmer" for example: distortion, super-indulgence, and complete disregard for listener health has never sounded so lovely. The witch-like moan and screech of the vocals on this track slip around the pure fucking animalistic drive of the guitar and the painful screech of electronics so perfectly, it's a surprise that more individuals haven't tried this approach (it seems ripe for theft and overuse). Metalux let it carry on for just long enough and don't bother using it again—it's an addictive piece of songwriting that only increases with each listen. In other places the record is almost danceable as drum machines pound away steady rhythms, alternating between bass hits and persistent snare crunching. The noise that moves over it and the sometimes fascist ramblings of the vocalist create the kind of fear that only an epileptic thrust suddenly into a disco bash could feel. "Airplane" and "Flexi-Armadillo" fit this bill well, but there aren't just a few styles on this album. Nearly every song is unique and still Waiting for Armadillo sticks together more cohesively than rock opera. "Rode West" sounds like it belongs in some world filled with secretly perverted clowns and "Mexico" might as well be put in every raver's CD player as a means of terminally destroying their ability to dance and think. Both of them sound as though they were crafted from the same twisted brain and both serve the greater purpose of lifting Waiting for Armadillo far above the usual onslaught of pummeling sound and into another dimension occupied only by itself. 

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